A two-day International Conference on ‘Media’s Role in Facilitating Peace in Conflict Situation in Northeast India and Neighbouring Countries’ was inaugurated here at Rajiv Gandhi University premises today by the RGU Vice Chancellor Prof. Tamo Mibang. Organized by the Department of Mass Communication, RGU in collaboration with Eastern Sentinel, the conference is supported by the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), National Hydro Power Corporation (NHPC) and the Department of Disaster Management, Arunachal Pradesh. Prag News and Rengoni TV and The Northeast Today (TNT) were its official Television and Magazine partners.
Speaking on the occasion, Prof. Tamo Mibang stressed on media’s role in conflict situations. Highlighting regional and world media scenario, he said ‘It is mankind who creates problems and hence they should settle the problems by themselves, people make demands based on political, economic and the social context, therefore it is the need of the hour to look into these areas of media’s role in facilitating peace in such situations.’
Citing that media is playing a crucial role in facilitating peace in society, Professor Mibang said such conference would boost the state media to deal with conflict situation in a better way. He further appealed to the students of Mass Communication to utilize the opportunity in order to equip themselves to tackle such situations in their future career.
In his keynote address, eminent journalist (Asia correspondent for the Swedish Daily, Sevenska Dagbladet) Bertil Lintner, made deep introspection of media’s role on conflict reporting giving insight into problems being faced by journalists while reporting in conflict zones. Emphasizing on the importance of factual and objective reporting, he said reporters should not be biased in their profession of journalism. ‘It is not an easy task for a journalist to write about any war. It is obviously not possible to go back and forth between two warring parties, so one has to stay on one side of the conflict,’ he said adding that journalists are not especially popular in certain quarters.
‘But I am old-fashioned enough to believe that we have an important role to fill in conflict areas and that role is to report objectively, factually and without bias other than deep considerations for all the innocent people who are affected by the conflict we cover.’ In the long run, the truth is the strongest weapon for solving conflict, he opined.
Introducing the conference theme, the Conference Convenor Dr. Kh. Kabi, Head, Department of Mass Communication highlighted the role of media in conflict situations. He said the responsibility of media is to promote peace in a society. Peace is also about telling truth without biases, it is also about equal participation during conflict times, he added.
CEO Eastern Sentinel, Jarpum Gamlin while extending his gratitude to the supporting partners said organizing the conferencewould not have been possible without their support and encouragement. Introducing resource persons of the conference, Gamlin dwelt at length on the achievements of the eminent journalists and academicians who are taking part in the conference.
Among other dignitaries, RGU Registrar Prof Rachob Taba was also present on the inaugural day. In the first technical session chaired by Professor Sarah Hilaly of RGU, papers on various topics were presented. These include ‘Media as facilitators of peace’ by Monalisa Changkija, ‘Media’s role in enforcing change in North-east’ by Samir K Purkayastha, “Entire world is not ‘Outer Darkness’: Need to break free” by Nirendra Dev, ‘Role of the Press in conflict resolutions in Mizoram’ by LR Sailo, ‘Conflict reporting and the danger of a single story’ by Kishalaya Bhattarcharjee, ‘Media and Insurgency’ by Samudra Gupta Kashyap.
In the second session, chaired by Professor Sarit Kumar Chaudhuri topics including ‘Ethnic strife in Bodoland and Media discourse’ by Monjib Machahari, ‘Advertising and Ethnicities: A comparative study of Sri Lanka and North-east India’ by Darshana Liyanage, ‘Media as facilitators in ethnic conflict transformation’ by Binoy Joseph, ‘Insurgency movement in Tripura’ by Sunil Kalai, ‘Redefining News for conflict resolutions: A study of news content with reference to Shillong Times in Meghalaya’ by Abir Suchiang, “Violent ‘Summer of 2012’ in Assam Regional Print media and ethnic conflict in context’ by Alankar Kaushik and ‘Media as an effective tool for peace and conflict situation among the tribes of Assam’ by Dr Bala Lakhendra. In the third technical session, chaired by Dr Ranendra Prasad topics including ‘Representation of Northeast India in the National Print Media’ by Shiji James and ‘Peace Journalism’ by Dr Ramesh Kumar Rawat were presented.
On the second day of the conference, Director Disaster Management Y W Ringu while speaking extensively on disaster management urged the media fraternity to play a crucial role in educating the public and to create much needed awareness. She said that media can play a vital role before, during and after a natural disaster. This way they can mitigate disasters and prevent loss of property and human life. However, she said due to lack of building for state emergency and operational helipad, rescue works become a difficult task. Lack of communication equipment, transportation facilities and other obstacles also hamper rescue operations, she said.
Explaining the role of media in disaster management, she said media need to inform, educate, and empower communities with relevant knowledge for influencing public actions and policies towards disaster preparedness and mitigation.
Subsequently, while continuing with the technical session, chaired by Prof Nani Bath the first speaker Pradip Phanjoubam presented papers on ‘Media Trauma Reporting and Conflict Resolutions’. He said that picture doesn’t tell a lie however your perspective can tell different stories. Rajiv Bhattacharya further presented on the topic ‘Media’s role in conflict situations in Assam in the last two decades’. He said that the escalation of mass media reporting can have both positive and negative aspects.
While Teresa Rehman who spoke on ‘Reporting Northeast India’ said while reporting for conflict zones we have to unlearn many theories and grab our own rule. Moreover, while concluding the session, Dr Nani Bath observed that issues related to Arunachal Pradesh including China incursion, interstate boundary dispute and others should be more emphasized during such conference. He also pointed out that when subjective become objective it creates problem in conflict reporting.
In his paper, Dr M Nawaz Khan presented on the topic ‘Media in conflict situation in Manipur’. Giving insight into the history of ethnic conflict in Manipur, he said media is largely concentrated in plain areas of Manipur. He also shared his experience while reporting for a local daily. Debraj Deb presented on ‘Media’s localizations effects and conflict situations: A study on Mass Media Escalations syndrome’, while Paranjoy Bordoloi spoke on ‘Media Ethics and social responsibilities in reference to Northeast India’. He also highlighted how new media is performing social responsibility while citing the GS road incident of Guwahati. He said it is in the domain of a reporter to use the right image at the right time.
Darshana Goswami has presented her paper on ‘Print media as an effective tool for peace and conflicts situations among the tribes of Assam’. Dr Bimal Krishna Sharma dwelt at length on ‘Social effects of mass media in northeast India’. The presenter further highlighted on stable political situations and reliable documentation of history and cultures.
Longjam Meena Devi presented on ‘social media the new change maker and harbinger of peace in the world: its process and proliferations while Nongmaithem Rohinkanta Singh (ca) Teli Yami presented on ‘Facebook as an agent of East journalism’.
Bharati Bharali spoke on “‘Old man River’ and a river story: social issue documentaries as a tool for promoting social cultural harmony in northeast India’ and Ratna Tayeng (ca) Tayuk Sonam presented on the topic ‘inter-state boundary dispute between Arunachal Pradesh and Assam’ Imrana Begum dwelt on the ‘coverage of peace talks and insurgency news in the Nagaland Post’ and Ankita Gogoi (ca) Dr Abhijit Bora presented on ‘contextualizing ULFA reportage by broadcast media of Assam within the purview of peace journalism’. Brahma Kumar Yudhisthir also presented on ‘positive peace journalism of Brahma Kumari organization in establishing peace in conflict torn northeast India and neighbouring country: a novel and divine perspective’.